Women Worth Watching 2015
GE’s Tech Director Drives Innovation and Mentors Tomorrow’s Leaders
Christine Furstoss is responsible for GE’s advanced manufacturing agenda in the company’s Global Research Center (GE’s innovation hub) and oversees the activities of more than 600 team members. She works with research and development leaders in GE’s industrial businesses to drive growth strategies and implement critical process and material developments for industry-leading products and manufacturing.
Christine’s GE career spans 26 years, multiple GE business units, and many engineering roles. She is an expert on GE’s Brilliant Machines and manufacturing materials, and was an advocate for advanced manufacturing long before it was popular. She devotes time to developing the next generation of leaders and GE’s Affinity Networks through mentoring, speaking at events, and leadership roles. She formerly co-led the Women’s Network’s Women & Technology group, an initiative for women in engineering and technology roles. She is currently Global Research Center champion for the Women’s Network small group mentoring program.
“At just 5 years into my career, I went from a contributor to a coordinator/program manager,” said Christine. “I learned that communication and influence skills were your greatest asset, and that your team defines you—so invest in them, be open with them, and support them so you all grow and succeed.”
“…your team defines you…”
In October 2014, Christine was selected by Penny Pritzker, US Secretary of Commerce, to serve on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). She also leads GE’s participation in the manufacturing innovation institutes launched by President Obama as a way to boost advanced manufacturing in the US. The Saratoga County School District recognized her for recruiting technologists from GE’s GRC mentor students participating in the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiative. At home, Christine grows a large garden each summer, so she can donate fresh produce to a local food bank.
Education: BS, MS, Materials Science and Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
First Job: The food service industry (hard work and long hours).
What I’m Reading: “The Killer Angels” (Michael Shaara) for the third time. History plus leadership…what could be better!
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
…to remain optimistic and always focus on being approachable. You have such tremendous opportunity to influence and help others; assure others want to connect to you.
The career advice I’d give my former self:
Make growing your network a higher priority. Not necessarily with those that are in roles similar to you, but those in roles that need to work with you. By understanding all your stakeholders and collaborators better, you will be better.
Words I live by:
Great leaders create other great leaders…it’s my responsibility to help those around me…and I love what I learn from them in the process!
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
…slow down in the early days; spend more time seeing more projects through all phases of development and implementation. By living through ups and downs, and experiencing all phases, the learnings will make you better and stronger in the long run.
When I really need to focus on a project, I…
…envision the outcome to give me clarity to determine not only what I need to do, but how I need to do It. I also remove myself from my normal environment, by going for a drive or walk, to start with a clean slate and remove distractions.
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…at just 5 years into my career, I went from a contributor to a coordinator/program manager. I learned that communication and influence skills were your greatest asset and that your team defines you—so invest in them, be open with them, and support them so you all grow and succeed.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…a commitment to being a catalyst to help women succeed; engaging as a mentor, sponsor and teacher. It starts with student engagement and extends to being an active participant in professional and community organizations; be there for other women – to talk, help, and be an example for learning.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…an opportunity to learn and grow. You always remember the ones you got wrong, so also remember how you will do it differently in the future.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…letting my family and friends keep me balanced. I’m a wife, mom, daughter, and friend first and need to assure that I “feed” those aspects of me as much as I invest in my professional growth.
I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…
…I met the people that I now work with. Their expertise, passion, and engagement drive me to do more to make us all successful.